I am an Antichrist
I am an anarchist
Don’t know what I want but
I know how to get it
I wanna destroy the passer by cos i
I wanna be anarchy !
No dogs body
Anarchy for the u.k its coming sometime and maybe
I give a wrong time stop a traffic line
Your future dream is a shopping scheme cos i
Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the U.K.
Once upon a time, I was a punk rocker.
Mohawk (ish)… check.
Bad Attitude… check.
Leather Jacket inscribed with images of culture jams… check.
Britain Fetish… check.
But most importantly, Anarchist? You bet.
In those days, anarchy ended up with a pretty bad rap. The culture of Britain in the late seventies, with their skyrocketing unemployment leaving thousands of young people on the dole, the politics of the bomb, the approach of 1984, folks were angry, they were hopeless, they were fed up with just more of the same day in, day out, forever.
As a result, this idea of anarchy became inextricably linked with violence. Violence toward the government, violence between individuals, violence as a way to be. Of course, that’s just another example of our culture bringing into the fold any subculture that seeks to break away. The story of Punk Rock was very much the story of civilization, no matter how much we desperately wanted it to be different. It was Hobbesian ‘the evil of mankind’ stripped of all of the civilized trappings and laid bare. Ripe to be clothed in some new paradigm – except there was no new paradigm. There really was just more of the same.
That’s the way of revolution. Whether social or political, all revolution ever does is bring us back to the beginning for another iteration of the same old shit.
But I don’t really want to talk about revolution: I want to talk about Anarchy. Back in the day, I figured out the limitations of anarchy pretty quickly. Not being terribly inclined to violence, I quickly defined myself as a ‘philosophical anarchist.’ In an ideal world, anarchy is the ideal form of organization. But in the real world, our numbers are simply too great: I recognized that anarchy could never function effectively in mass society because, well, what can I say: on some level I bought into Hobbes, too. Sort of. Maybe it would be better to say that I bought into the myths of progress and the inevitability of civilization. (of course, I didn’t know any of it at the time)
Now I know better. Yes, it is absolutely true that Anarchy would not function well within a single population of thousands or millions of people. But the problem there is not the philosophy of anarchy, but rather the philosophy of nationhood. Millions of people can never live together in peace in harmony because we are simply not designed that way.
So the other day I found this pamphlet on line that really speaks to a lot of the ideas I hold close to my heart: its called Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, David Graeber, PhD:
There is a way out, which is to accept that anarchist forms of organization would not look anything like a state. That they would involve an endless variety of communities, associations, networks, projects, on every conceivable scale, overlapping and intersecting in any way we could imagine, and possibly many that we can’t. Some would be quite local, others global. Perhaps all they would have in common is that none would involve anyone showing up with weapons and telling everyone else to shut up and do what they were told. And that, since anarchists are not actually trying to seize power within any national territory, the process of one system replacing the other will not take the form of some sudden revolutionary cataclysm—the storming of a Bastille, the seizing of a Winter Palace—but will necessarily be gradual, the creation of alternative forms of organization on a world scale, new forms of communication, new, less alienated ways of organizing life, which will, eventually, make currently existing forms of power seem stupid and beside the point.
If you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity, I hope those words seem familiar to you, or at least the sentiments he is expressing. Human nature is such that we thrive and succeed in the context of small communities: where the mega-‘community’ of the nation is a poor substitute for the deep relationships that we evolved to share. We need other people on a fundamental level that we cannot deny, and we do not satisfy that need through interactions with strangers – whether literal strangers or just ‘people we know’, but not really.
So where does anarchy fit into all this? Well, literally, anarchy means ‘without rulers.’ It IS egalitarianism. Now this has nothing to do with leaders. Humans will always look for leadership, simply because we cannot all be experts at everything, and again, because we need other people and leaders help us define the context of those relationships. Not with a club, but with an open hand.
Anarchy, despite the assumptions people have about it, from its history, is not a philosophy of violence: in fact, it is the exact opposite of our current hierarchal systems which are about violence. As Graeber notes:
In fact the threat of that man with the stick permeates our world at every moment; most of us have given up even thinking of crossing the innumerable lines and barriers he creates, just so we
don’t have to remind ourselves of his existence. If you see a hungry woman standing several yards away from a huge pile of food—a daily occurrence for most of us who live in cities—there is a reason
you can’t just take some and give it to her. A man with a big stick will come and very likely hit you.
Anarchists, in contrast, have always delighted in reminding us of him. Residents of the squatter community of Christiana, Denmark, for example, have a Christmastide ritual where they dress in Santa suits, take toys from department stores and distribute them to children on the street, partly just so everyone can relish the images of the cops beating down Santa and snatching the toys back from crying children.
We don’t like to admit it: but that is the perfect metaphor for our culture: Cops beating up Santas and snatching toys back from crying children. Is that really the world we want?
(Originally Posted November 3, 2006)